Community colleges can offer unique benefits for businesses looking to attract new workers to their industry or develop the skills of their existing workforce, and are well-suited to help address the lack of well-trained, skilled and certified workers across the country.
“Your best workforce resource may be your local community college. As colleges reimagine their roles for the 21st century, they are committing to work with business and industry to provide trained and adaptable talent. We encourage companies to work with their community college partners to develop programs and pipelines that meet their current and future needs.”
Why a Community College Model Works
- Part of the Mission Across the country, community colleges are weaving employment-related outcomes into their missions, taking to heart the call to prepare their graduates to enter the workforce. Community colleges, located in all 50 states, are local or regional in their focus, attracting students from the area and building lasting ties to local economies. Community colleges also generally have open admissions, meaning that the majority of potential workers are eligible to enroll in classes.
- Reliable Source of Talent Community colleges are positioned to serve as a reliable source of trained workers with degrees and credentials. For businesses of any size, partnerships can help hiring go beyond traditional hiring practices like simple word of mouth, employment services or want ads. Partnerships can result in businesses knowing that a potential worker has received industry-recognized training or credentials. It may also result in a learn-and-earn opportunity, which offers the company the ability to get to know the students prior to hiring.
- Adaptable and Responsive An ability to be agile and responsive to businesses’ needs is where the community college partnership model can really shine. Community colleges are capable of producing courses of different lengths and depths. In many cases, community colleges will change their class offerings, class times and even class locations to meet the needs of local employers and the workforce.
Community colleges can also provide training of different lengths for different purposes—ranging from a 2-year associates program to a 2-month intensive training “crash course.” Ongoing communication with a community college translates to a flexible and responsive relationship, allowing the college to tailor its offerings to accommodate near- or long-term skills needs.
- Effective Use of Resources Community colleges are often a solution that makes sense for businesses and students when it comes to resources. For businesses, partnering with community colleges allows them to take advantage of institutions and structures already geared to training people. Businesses can work within these existing training structures to develop successful and cost-effective operations.
Compared to other training providers or potentially even training in-house, community college programs can require fewer resources for employers, and partnerships can reduce recruitment costs. For students, the average in-state tuition rate for community college students costs 64% less than in-state tuition at public 4-year colleges, and sometimes can be partially supported by scholarships or employee tuition assistance offered by the partnering business.
Not a “Silver Bullet” for Unemployment
- WHAT PARTNERSHIPS ARE NOT Business and community college partnerships are not a silver bullet to the country’s unemployment challenges or the lack of hiring demand that we still face as the country continues to recover from the recession. Even if every worker had the skills needed by business, there would still be unemployment challenges.
- WHAT PARTNERSHIPS ARE Business and community college partnerships are one solution to more closely align training and businesses’ skill requirements, and help build a stronger workforce.
Develop the workforce you need. Support the workforce you haveAs businesses are looking to community colleges to help recruit, train and advance workers, there are 2 core reasons businesses say they seek community college partnerships:
- 1. Develop a pipeline of new employees for both immediate and long-term hiring needs.
- 2. Enhance the skills of existing workers.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Company: Develop the workforce you needThe PowerPathwayTM program at PG&E has the pipeline model down to a science. And it gets results.
- The What PG&E designs short-term (8-12 week) limited-enrollment programs based specifically on a local hiring need. Programs are flexible and use customized coursework developed in partnership with PG&E to prepare students for entry- and apprentice-level careers with PG&E or in other companies in the utility industry. The program includes pre-employment testing and rigorous application pre-screening. To PG&E, this program also counters the coming “Silver Tsunami,” as a large percentage of their workforce approaches retirement age.
- The How PG&E contributes by providing technical support, curriculum design, faculty “train-the-trainer” programs, co-delivery of classroom instruction, student field visits, in-kind donations of training equipment and funding. Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) pre-screen candidates to ensure successful completion rates.
- The Who PG&E’s PowerPathwayTM program relies on an array of partners, including: California community colleges and universities, local workforce investment boards (WIBs), community-based training organizations, military installations, labor unions and other businesses.
- The Story Jacob Cordova, a recent graduate of the PowerPathwayTM program and a military veteran, had previously applied to PG&E, but didn’t make it through the hiring process. After being selected and committing to the PowerPathway TM program, Jacob was trained alongside 30 other veterans, ranging in age from 22 to 43-years old, and after successfully completing the program was hired by PG&E. Jacob mentioned that the program gave him the “something extra” and the ability to stand out in a crowded field of applicants.
- The Numbers Most students are connected to jobs, but not just PG&E jobs. 71% of PowerPathwayTM graduates are hired into industry positions, including PG&E suppliers, contactors and even competitors. PG&E also has found a 98% retention rate after 6 months of employment, 10% higher than workers who have not gone through the program.
Georgia-Pacific, Luminant and General Electric (GE): Support the workforce you haveOther businesses are investing in their current workforce by advancing the skills of their incumbent workers.
- Georgia-Pacific Employees at Georgia-Pacific wanted to upgrade their skills from basic manufacturing to fill the shortage of workers with electrical, instrumentation and mechanical skills, something encouraged by the business. With opportunities to enroll in a paid training program during nights or weekends, employees are able to transition from making a good living working 12-hour rotating shifts to a full day shift job and a career. Employees earn a higher pay rate because they learned these new skills, and Georgia-Pacific develops talent throughout the company.
- Luminant Luminant employs more than 2,800 people throughout its Texas mines and power plants. The company started its Power Track program as a way to train individuals for entry-level employment in power plant operations. The program includes a paid summer internship working with a mentor at a Luminant power plant between the student’s first and second year. However, current Luminant employees were inspired by Power Track interns to take advantage of advanced education opportunities, and have also attended classes. Since the implementation of Power Track, employee training has increased 59% at Luminant.
- GE Investing in the future, and investing in people—that’s the combination GE uses to incorporate training its existing workforce into its business model. GE channels its existing workforce through community colleges. In addition to designing programs, GE funds its employees to go back to school for training on the global supply chain or to earn manufacturing certifications and training for machinists, welders and assemblers. Some assistance through funding, operational support and equipment is offered for community college programs. This support is determined by the individual partnerships and needs at each GE site and local community college. GE believes the larger community benefits by having incumbent workers develop their skills. And a skilled workforce is a key component that GE uses when deciding where to locate their business and if they should remain in the area where they are currently based.